Teaching Tips: Reflection Questions and Open Discussion
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Teaching Tips: Reflection Questions and Open Discussion

Doug Norton

Allgood et al. (2016) note that, “The evidence on the use of classroom experiments and cooperative learning shows consistent positive effects on student achievement …”. This is an exciting conclusion since our view is that the best is still to come. We don’t truly understand the conditions under which experiments will have the greatest impact.

Last fall we reported on a study from Cartwright and Stepanova (2012) that showed the importance writing prompts. I wanted to expand on the idea of writing prompts by talking about Open Discussion. At the end of each of our modules we include a Final Reflection Survey. These questions help to set the stage for discussion by having students think through a problem before we initiate discussion. Questions often take the following form:

  1. Students are asked to compare two games
  2. Students are prompted to think about the assumptions of the game.
  3. Students are asked to generalize the insights of the game.

Let me provide a couple examples. Students are asked to compare standard Bertrand to Bertrand with communication and indefinite repetition (here). In the labor market with and without unemployment insurance students are encouraged to think about how changing the assumptions of the game would affect predictions (here). In the externalities with policy interventions students are encouraged to think about the assumption that social cost is known and the tax will be implemented at the correct level (here). If you’re playing our matching market you might consider asking what other labor markets would be a good fit for a matching algorithm. Or if you played the Ultimatum game you might ask about fairness as part of a general behavior function. Where is fairness most salient? When is fairness not a consideration?

The bottom line: Games spark curiosity. We can draw out that curiosity in students through good post game reflection questions and open discussion.